By Inna Pletukhina, IAEA Office of Legal Affairs
The IAEA’s first ever book by global thought leaders on nuclear law has just been published in e-book format, providing free access to a compilation of essays on this highly specialized legal field. Nuclear Law: The Global Debate echoes the tagline of the IAEA’s upcoming First International Conference on Nuclear Law (ICNL2022), to take place in Vienna from 25 to 29 April, and contains articles by leading scholars, policymakers and scientists in the field.
Nuclear law underpins the entire nuclear sector, enabling the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear technology for the benefit of humanity. The international legal instruments, standards and norms provide the framework in which those operating a nuclear power plant, transporting radioactive material for cancer therapy or those experimenting in a laboratory to develop COVID-19 testing kits work.
“[M]ajor challenges continue to face humanity today and can be expected to persist in the future, including food security, health care and management of water resources, together with the need for a cleaner and safer environment,” states Director-General Grossi in his chapter. “Legal frameworks enable the use of nuclear technology to address these critical issues.”
This edited volume presents a truly global perspective on the current and emerging issues in nuclear law, grouped around its four pillars: nuclear safety, security, safeguards and civil liability for nuclear damage. The authors trace the origins of legal instruments and practices in the areas of nuclear safety and emergency response, as well as the IAEA’s mandate in nuclear verification. Addressing small modular reactors, the contributors highlight legal issues surrounding deployment of floating power plants and analyse the applicability of the international physical protection obligations to advanced reactor technologies. Some experts reflect on the successes and challenges of establishing regulatory bodies, national nuclear security regimes, as well as entire national nuclear power programmes. Others consider how liability could be established in a court of law in cases of radiation exposure and how to strengthen the global nuclear liability regime. Looking forward, some experts explore the role of nuclear law in enabling peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, including in economic development, climate change mitigation, and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In his chapter, DG Grossi outlines his vision: “to work actively towards making the legal and normative framework we have today as robust as possible; to help States adhere to the laws, standards and norms that keep us all safe and allow us to enjoy the many benefits of nuclear technology; and to make it possible for all those who, together with the IAEA, shape the international nuclear legal instruments of tomorrow to be as proactive as possible.”
The mandate of the IAEA
Depositary of the international legal instruments on safety, security, safeguards and civil liability for nuclear damage, the IAEA is at the heart of the nuclear legal framework and plays a multi-faceted role in the development and implementation of nuclear law. Nuclear law will continue to provide a foundation for harnessing the power of nuclear technology. To ensure that the nuclear frameworks evolve and remain fit for purpose, the IAEA will convene its first ever conference on nuclear law in April, where hardcover copies of the book will be distributed to participants.